tv American History TV CSPAN September 28, 2014 9:05pm-10:01pm EDT
of "the white house." he spoke of the white house as a symbol of the american presidency at a symposium marking the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812 and the british burning of washington. the white house historical association, the u.s. capitol historical society, and montpelier hosted this event. it is about one hour. >> thank you. our next speaker will be william seale. and to us at the association, he doesn't really need much introduction. he's been a part of our organization as an adviser to our board for at least as the time he published his president's house" in 1986. he's been a mentor to us on the staff with research eeducation, publication. over all those many years and now is the editor of our white house history publication that you all received a complementary
copy in your packets. i hope you'll enjoy that and hopefully become a subscriber to our journal and keeping up with the latest research. of course, william seale is an architectural historian and specialist on the restoration and preservation of historic buildings. his handiwork is all over the country in executive mansions and capitols. he's also, of course, published " the president's house, i just mentioned, which is like the, to us, the bible of white house history. the white house garden, the white house -- the white house, the history of an american idea, which is really the architectural history of the house that he has written. he's also collaborated with artists. peter wadell on an artist visits the white house past which is a wonderful little booklet that is available. and the new book coming out and will be available tonight in our gift shop and you'll be allowed in early to be able to have a copy signed if you'd like to do
that at 5:45. the title is "the night they burned the white house." so we -- and also he's contributed many other publications, including our art historic guide book. with that i'd like you to give a warm welcome to william seale. [applause] historic guide book. with that i'd like you to give a warm welcome to william seale. [ applause ] >> do i need that on? hello. it's good to be here. i look forward to it and have enjoyed what i've been able to -- >> oh, i do. i have to have a microphone. machinery. i am going to talk about the symbol of the white house, the
survival of it through time. and can everyone hear now? i mean, everyone that wants to. a monument you see, a symbol you feel, rather basic, but if this is a -- if this simple description satisfies purposes, i'll let it sit. it can be said that the white house began as a monument and was a symbol of the american presidency by its final completion in the 1830s. this was unlike the national capitol which had 30 years to go when the great dome completed during the civil war became the symbol of the union. the white house was conceived and born entirely at the behest of president washington. it was part of his unique conception of the washington city's future as a world class capital, representing also his idea of the tone the usa would present to other countries. when the tree cutting and street clearing began in the early 1790s for the city, washington's
vision for the future was at its peak and the curious french engineer peter charles la font had the president's ear. he had drawn a very ambitious plan and it seems was heard on every matter involving the project. la font never surrendered his dream for the city and that's the work that washington supported a lot of it. the basic plan. the president who held greater power than any to come for a century after him nevertheless had realities to consider, no matter his authority over the constitution -- under the constitution. washington's efforts to illustrate this booming nation and great presidency waned over the decade of the 1790s. his idea of world participation shrank as he watched the revolutionary age of which he was part, really, turn in europe to mind this bloodshed. as he saw the collapse of apparently stable governments he came to believe that america must not attach itself to in any
but the most baseuc economic involvements with europe. he saw america rise during his administration, close to being second in rank among mercantile countries of europe. the proposed plans of la font still pleased him but he allowed many changes to what la font called the palace. the white house was the most urgent feature of the master plan because it seemed that the most -- it was most nearly possible for completion on time. the year 1800 when congress specified the city be occupied by the government. what la font had called the palace was already under way when the engineer departed in early 1972. he didn't know much about politics, and he lost his job. or he left. stone from old sandstone quarries had been pulled and drawn on its rafts up river to the edge of the strong -- in the edge of the strong current. laborors black and white doug the cellars under la font's
direction. however, when la font departed, so much of what he had designed seems to have been, as jefferson put it in his head, that the volunteer commissioners charged with building the city complained about some of the ideas. the president's house they decided was too big. they would run out of freestone before it was finished. washington listened and as a practical man agreed to advertise for designs for a smaller house. but he paid little attention to the entries apparently in the competition and selected his own man, james hoban, an irish-born architect trained, really a practical builder. he met him in charleston. one thing the president liked about hoban, apart from his skill was he owned many lands of his own. so hoban was on the president's level of thinking. hoban, one good politician, unlike la font, seems to have realized that president washington was looking for assurance and gave him a model. a plan based upon the dublin
residence of the anglo irish duke of lynnster, ireland's first gentleman. obviously knowing who the duke was, nobles were celebrities after all. and about his brother, the duke's brother known to history as the heroic lord edward whose earlier adventures included service with the british at the battle of king's mountain and a comfortable tenure as a prisoner of war and washington's cousin's residence in charleston. president washington accepted the whole irish idea it seems with a plan. the commissioners in charge begged him to reduce the house even more. he agreed to reduce it vertically to two stories from three. built over a partially exposed basement. but at the same time, he increased it that much horizontally. and he ordered stone carving on the exterior as it was to be the richest and finest in america. although very archaniic in desi
at the tomime. the white house was built in this way. it was late autumn, 1793. walking in a huge cellar that had been dug, president washington himself drove the stakes locating the north door on the -- in the center where it is now and situating the smaller house. this is the white house we know today. the symbol of the american presidency, the world over. president washington saw his house built but even as he, retiring from office sensed further changing of presidential power, his successor john adams, the first to live in the white house, was even further surrounded by conflicting ideas of government. he didn't like the white house. preferring a row house closer to the capitol but he yielded. the symbol at last went to work if not quite with respender as envisioned, at levees, adam stood there beneath the great
picture that bill altman told us about washington. old and toothless in his black velvet diplomatic uniform. and puffing his pipe. he was not presidential like his predecessor. thomas jefferson liked to call his election a revolution. a win is a win but hardly a revolution. jefferson cast over at his republican simplicity and not wishing to asking congress for money respecting washington's house he made few notable changes other than the wings to the sides that gave it a sort of a dish to sit upon. the destruction of the white house by fire in august of 1814 was a low point in the american war of 1812 as president madison's butler was poking around in the ruins to rescue what he could. notably, the kitchen stove.
andrew jackson's miraculous victory arrived in washington by horse back messenger, young hampton ii. victory had come on the banks of the very american river that they held in such importance. for all its strategic questions, to americans, the west had won the war against england. that was the big show piece. madison ordered the public buildings repaired, an odd word to use and summoned them to the white house to rebuild what he had built for washington. exactly as it had been. and in doing this, madison clearly acknowledged the important identity of the house. thinking it a matter of urgency to restore it to what it had been. the white house, as it was already called by that time, about 1803, so it had been that for a while, achieved its restoration in its restoration, even klclearer, more complex.
yet the press and individuals began to write about the house and even to illustrate it. madison's successor james monroe moved into the house late in 1817. on new year's day 1818, the world was invited to see the house. even the crew that had worked on it were given crackers and beer in the basement. they never had imagined it before. many, many came. when it looked exactly the same outside except for unfinish eed boarded up openings in the roof to allow for porticos that were planned. the interior was princely and regal. in effect, washington would have disapproved and jefferson abhorred. gold leaf french furniture, chandeliers, great mirrors and sumptuous uphostries. it was a palatial symbol of the head of state. monroe's administration opened in the bright glow of what that time was called the era of good feelings. war was over. americans were in control. the british were gone and
prosperity seemed everywhere. americans exploding ambitions it turned now to enterprise. the president believed that the cancer of rival political parties was over. well, the idea that the era of good feelings is spoken many ways is best exemplified to me in a plaster wall mural taken from a tavern in new england by -- painted by rufus porter, the distinguished muralist that some people would say folk fur muralist. copying from an engrafg made by his childhood friend george catlin. it's a poignant expression to kindle feelings of everyday folk after the war. it shows the rebuilt white house backed by gigantic rising sun with rays proclaiming new beginnings. happily, the painting, which had been cut from the wall, when identified, was purchased for the -- by the white house historical association about 20 years ago.
so it's safely in bill's collection. monroe proceeded, commissioning hoban to add a south semicircular porch called a south portico. though it's not a portico. it can be said with accuracy that his various uses of the house, president monroe established the white house as a national symbol of the presidency for all time. after him, the tone of the appearance of the white house was for every president important consideration. the symbolic house was central to the climax of the tumultuous 1820s when its legend embraced andrew jackson at his inauguration. the inaugural dignity of the past was over. thousands swarmed on washington, many hoping for government jobs and contracts from the people's president. their march home with him from the capital started the tradition of the inaugural parade. thousands of merrymakers accompanied the frail, sickly jackson who rode a horse down
opinion pen avenue and his crowd did not stop as usual as the shops and taverns but went directly into the white house. nor did the flow stop at the tall mahogany doors. overnight americans adopted the story of unruly crowds entering the house after jackson's inauguration and in their celebration tearing it up. i think the actual problem was that the people who entered were of all classes and that had never -- and they had never been comfortable going there before. many would never have dared to enter the house. poor man was practically crushed by the rolling tide of people and was literally picked up and carried out the south portico to the hotel. to thin the crowds which had no intention of leaving, the steward put wash tubs of whiskey and orange juice on the lawn. it was immoralized in a cartoon
by the famous british cartoonist george krushak. as for the legend that monroe's beautiful rooms were torn up, our national archives and the great thoroughness of its domestic roirds of the white house assures us the white house had no expenditures for damages or anything else that occurred that day. the house ways and means committee anticipated the glorious coming of jackson. money was appropriated to build the portico on the north, the column familiar to us today. hoban built it and finished only a year before his death as he had the one on the south. it was essentially his house. the image was complete and the image became familiar to the world. jackson's political backers themselves made some improvements to feature a new occupant of the symbolic house. they commissioned ralph e.w. earl, a jackson in-law and
friend to paint a heroic image of new orleans and hung it in the big entrance hall. you saw it before you saw washington when you went on tour. that was open from 1801 on tours. now the public had something rather pointed and needed to see and there was more. the east room remained undecorated, although hoban completed the ornate archite architectural shell. a great assembly room of the house. the stage where jackson would now appear at receptions and public open houses. the stage was set. furniture warehouses in philadelphia were called in to finish the mity 85-foot space, enormous mirrors, chandeliers are and wundo hangings. patent lamps, bright yellow rainbow wall paper and carpeting together with 21 spitoons to make the east room as grand as they thought versailles must certainly have been. in addition, stars made of papier-mache and gilded were put
over the arch door from the hall through which jackson entered during his receptions, symbolically framing the hero. to cover his thin frame, jackson wrapped himself in a full blew great coat extending nearly to the floor. the high blue collar framed his white hair which flew back from his face like wind swept snow. the marine band played a lively march just in case anyone present had missed the fact that the president was entering. how much more presidential could it be? jackson, like madison before the fire and monroe after it embellished the white house to amplify his presence. railroads came to washington in his time. hotels became numerous in the town had many visitors on business. political business, mostly. this trend would continue through time calling for a different requirement to suit different political circumstances and philosophical ideas. the white house never lost its association with president washington, but moved beyond
that, gaining greater fame and respect and legend when madison pulled it back from ruin and monroe emphasized it with his grandeur. as time passed, the building's symbolism gained a less abstract presence and more substance through the lives of those who lived there by the succession of presidents. each with his own story, each with his own achievements and occasionally failures. it was increasingly seen that a president lived his life as president entirely in that symbolic place. and became a part of his history, as well as that of the house. all presidents that have to ask themselves what do i do about the white house? even doing nothing to it is subject to interpretation. and several early presidents had faced that. presidents antibellum addressed the problem from van buren to buchanan. they held weekly dinners with
representatives always careful in their selection of guests from the power circles in congress. in james buchanan's time, they were cursing each other across the dinner table. he had to invite people of pro or antisentiments. he had to be very careful in that sense. the music scholar elise kirk who is one of us at the association, provides a history of frequent musical performance at the white house performances to draw people. in support of the lively house paper hangers, drapers, upholterers worked continually behind the scenes. their invoices at the archives suggest the place was in a state of constant improvement. constant patching might better describe it. for congress contributed little to the decor and does not today. symbolism was at every turn inserted into the larger symbol, the house, to personalize it. the first had been a museum jefferson set up to display
artifacts from the various western expeditions. he even housed two grizzly bears from the rocky mountains in an enclosure on the driveway outside. a great show was made by adams and monroe of the visits of general lafayette. andrew jackson's portrait was a more pronounced symbol, maybe more a monument. powers, later the famous vermont sculptor of the greek slave and other works displayed his clay bust of andrew jackson sculpted from life in the entrance hall before he journeyed to italy forever. to have it carved into marble. to identify himself with jefferson, the expansionist, president james k.polk who through the war with mexico pushed the nation's western boundary to the pacific, he had david danjier's full length marble of thomas jefferson moved and set up on the north lawn in the middle of about where jefferson kept the bears. his wife sarah had called it
home sally. sarah had symbolic ideas, too. she was one tough first lady. about her jimmy, as she called him, his greatness. she hung a large portrait of the conquistador over the mantle in the blue room. you kanscan see the jefferson se today. jefferson's was not the only one with live entertainment. zachary taylor displayed his famous mexican war horse old whitey on the lawn where he grazed in peacetime comfort. the delighted public to whom whitey was well known in prince and other things and a hero, hugged him and petted him and took hairs from his tail until in the president's funeral procession, whitey had no tail left. for all the self-promotion undertaken by the president's
antebellum, little about the white house itself should be included in such sessions -- such recollections. it was not the presidents of this period who would enhance forever the house as a symbol. it was only one of them, abraham lincoln. in lincoln's time it was the house 60 years old. had been rebuilt, modernized but still old. its cold water laboratories into which the potomac water flowed unscreened leaked and gave a sulphur smell. water in the three toilets, water closets, rose and spilled when it rained hard. the rooms were huge. except for the state floor where very sparsely furnished. it was kind of hard living. odds and ends, except for the state bedroom which mrs. lincoln refurnished and named the prince of wales room for its only
celebrated guest. yet lincoln's white house is more powerful in memory than any other. even washington. of course, he never lived there. it comes to us like a stage production with its characters, its ups, downs, few joys, amazing triumphs, many tragedies and sudden -- sad end. lincoln seems to have had no particular interest in the white house but respected its history. two times he referred to it as this damned old house, revealing it was an expensive headache. and then this big white house once when he expressed his respect for it among some young soldiers symbolically as a young house in which any american might aspire to live. it was lincoln's residency there that intensified the symbolic house and gave it power it had never had before that protected it from the ambitious and indelible victorians who followed. actually, i think there might be no white house today symbol or not in lincoln's melodrama had not played out there.
building experts lay in wait. the corps of army engineers certainly eager to please the president with a new house stepped forth as the enemy of the old white house and they would carry that great honor for the next half century. not only two years -- two years after luincoln's death, his successor andrew johnson approved a corps plan for building a villa-style house out for the flt rock creek park. there were so many reason yes to do it. this proposal of the corps which had a -- which had a long time interest in saving rock creek park's woods and streams from commercial advance, gave them a lift into the president's and the president's approval. the scheme was very much current when president ulysses s. grant took office but he cast it out immediately saying that he wanted to live in lincoln's house. the traditional home of the
presidents. this is the first time this really appears under general grant. he wasn't as dumb as people say. president hayes and garfield lived in the white house and saw it was historic, thought it was historic and symbolic. both consulted the library of congress on what they could do to make it look more historical. the most that came from this was hayes' ordering a portrait of martha washington painted by e.f. andrews to hang as a mate to gilbert stewart's and it remains with washington's today in the east room. the painter used martha washington's head, a woman well beyond middle age, as depictsed by stewart, but the body of the president's 18-year-old niece emily was the one used. dream on. president hayes also demolished president grant's billiard room, lest the public see such a symbol of wickedness. it was not an act that was
likely to occur with vigorous garfield who one of the first things he did in the white house was search out all the storage cellars for the whiskey that president hayes had hidden. garfield was assassinated in the summer of 1881. the vice president chester a. arthur as president and successor was left with finishing the job. he hated the house, thinking it old fashioned, that it misrepresented the high position of the presidency. he tried to have it demolished, first. then added on to and the corps provided him with a design for a large wing on the south and the popular richardsonnian romanesque mode. opposition to this was the first time public rejection and newspaper mockery flew in anger and to angry defiance at the changing white house. so president arthur dropped the plan and had louis comfort
comfortative tiffany carry out this work. it was here where tiffany established elements, the tiffany glass screen which apparently ended up in maryland in a hotel and it burned. but people loved it. it was in murky colors of red, white and blue. and it had always been a screen there, but -- the army corps of engineers failed in an effort to greatly expand the house again in 1889 to celebrate george washington's inauguration. there's always a hook. in 1899, the corps had its foot in the door, it thought, but lost miserably in the attempt. mckinney said, okay, maybe. mrs. mckinley said there will be no hammering while i live hire. and that pretty much did it. september 1901 brought the president -- brought to the
presidency the vice president theodore roosevelt just as a group of private architects had dethroned the army corps of engineers and set about creating a master plan for the city of washington. they named their plan for their patron in the senate senator james mcmillan of michigan. charles mckim, one of the country's best architects and major player in wanting to redesign washington, all the architects got together at the american institute of architects. he realized politically to make the whole plan work, its supporters needed full presidential support. he learned that the roosevelts loved the old house. he loved -- all roosevelts love old houses and loved antiques. he loved that they wanted the historic white house and they wanted to live there. it was inevitable to be central to his administration and so mckim spun a web and wrapped the
youthful president like a hero's cloak in all the prestige of the past. it was all to be a world image we now have been -- were an international nation. we had ambassadors, the world had changed and mckim restored the exterior but the interior which was the same house, but it was decorated in a more european way embassies were, with the french furniture and all. yet mckim's touch preserved the white house, bringing it into a new era with pinache. mckim preserved the exterior plan and the plan of the white house as people knew it. he tore off additions people loved, the conservatory. building new wings to the side. one is a new entrance, the other as new offices known today as the west wing. there were bathrooms, coat rooms, storage rooms and modern
nickel plated kitchen and all the accommodations needed in a house of state. as well as office space. yet it still felt like the white house. the symbol had survived and even increased in power and roosevelt dismissed any critics of the remodd ieling as yahoos. that's all he said. the white house was lived in hard for the next some 40 years. world war i and ii passed by. very little in world war i, world war ii. they lived it down. and it also was threatened with being dangerous for bombs and thing s during the war. we thought we'd be attacked. ms. roosevelt wrote in the summer of '43 and said your father expects los angeles to be bombed this summer. so the great depression was
battled from its walls in world war ii. president coolidge in the '20s tore off the attic and added a low-profile third floor. among the many negative documents, a particular one brought a week after pearl harbor called the house a fire trap. roosevelt simply dismissed the report. i don't want to hear it. in 1945 came a president no one had ever heard much about. harry s. truman was a problem solver and considered that he had an appropriate knowledge of architecture and interior design. some might have objected to that, but he did have a history of dealing with buildings. one might question truman's sophistication but his sensitivity towards symbols was acute. always had been. as he was to demonstrate with this house, the corps brought to him the same documents that he'd
shown franklin roosevelt. truman read them and ordered a structural investigation from the corps. and the resulting death sentence predictably, the corps said the house must be torn down and reconstructed. the widowed eleanor roosevelt moved out from the second and third floors sending 13 van loads of possessions furnishings, pictures, thousands of books, models of ships and more back to hyde park. president truman faced a family quarters only sparsely finished and they witnessed structural problems far more at a nearly empty house. and it was truman who said it was just worn down by living. most of the fault went to -- not to age but human quick fixes. the culprits were many through 150 years. mckim, for example, enlarging the state dining room in haste
suspended the extended ceiling with iron tie rods anchored in the the old wooden timbers in the attic. and president coolidge tore off the attic level demanding it be done quickly as they all do. used steel and heavy concrete block terminating the tie rods of 20 years before and so an. the house was like a hamburger that you squashed. it was falling down on itself. and the east room, mr. truman, the chandeliers were swinging when no one was pushing. plaster dust fell like snow and an engine o'erer i knew recalle crawling in the space between the timber frame structure of the east room and below it the plaster that had come unlocked and sunk 40 inches from the
locking laff. one fire bomb in the entrance hall they assured the president would burn the house more quickly than did the british in 1814. the public was informed of the dangerous situation by a simple vignette some of us here may remember that the white house was in trouble. margaret truman's piano, she had two in her sitting room and the grand piano of one leg of it slipped between two boards in the floor. cracking the plaster in the family dining room below an the state floor. that was enough for anyone to approve triman's flight that very day across the state to blair house. but what the core's brief -- but what the corps's brief victory had seemed soon ended. the engineers rai s realized th to confront with the president and historian. it was close to being a passion,
certain lie a commitment. besides being a reader of history, truman loved historic sites and material things that reflected history. he respected symbols and there was no way he'd demolish the white house. truman was no restorationist in our modern sense but for his time, a very solid preservationist. the practical man in him realized that such a building had to function but the intrinsic side must not be lost. the president moved forever from the white house was to him unthinkable. upon inquiry, he found that at yale university architect douglas orr had renovated the 18th century connecticut hall by removing the entire interior and replacing it with a new plan and steel materials. steel and concrete. orr was invited to the white house. the white house architect, one of the pioneer restorationists of georgetown, visited the governor's palace in williamsburg and noted the reconstruction there of an 18th century building was an interior
frame of steel with everything built within it new. president truman determined to save the symbolic image of the credibility of it, and replaced the sagging interior of wood. he stuck to his order. no destruction any of kind whatsoever was allowed to do harm to the old stone walls which he observed the george washington had ordered built. and most people had forgotten that. the wreckers moved in pulling down plaster walls, removing some of the elements, windows, chimney pieces, but very little was held back. it all went away as debris. once the interior was gone, a steel frame looking like tunker toys held up the old walls from collapse. and in a sense, the steel structure was built inside the original walls which were given a new foundation, strengthened and they would have nothing touching them of any substance. of course, the backing of brick. there was a three-foot backing
of brick behind the stone. that gives a you the possibility to put air conditioning ducts in that extra space. when the mass removal was done, the rebuilding of the interior beg began. essentially it was a new house within the old shell. old window frames, some doors and wainscoting were rescued by winslow but little else. when the president moved back in april 1952, not long before he left office, the white house looked about as it had to most people who entered. the general judgment was that it was beautiful. however, eleanor roosevelt came for a visit and wrote in her column it looked to me just like a sheraton hotel. and that image shaded the history of this symbol's renovation with a certain self-consciousness from then on. in truman's time while he lived in blair house, television made its appearance in the news. when the president wanted to say something, he usually walked
over to the white house and construction using it as a background. thus began the presence of television and the broadcast of the symbolic white house to the world. dwight eisenhower further developed this practice by giving his many addresses from the house. his tv expert, the movie star robert montgomery and tv pioneer, found filming the president in the house challenging at first. he was -- he had to grab the powder puff for his head from the makeup people because the makeup people were terrified of eisenhower. so he went and got it and went -- eisenhower didn't mind it. so a system developed and eisenhower actually turned out to be a natural for twig undele under montgomery's supervision. they left the democratic convention in 1956 with television in mind. by 1960, kennedy fit perfectly into what he always called that little gadget. the white house was ever present on the screen in its
administration caring that farther, the symbolic house was embellished by press settings rich in history. the kennedy administration brought the white house into the public. consciously as never before. here was a home finer than most but facing the same challenges of living that a house -- any house felt. and the public felt a part of this. in time, the settings of the kenne kennedys inside the rooms were replaced by museum collections, assembled by president and mrs. nixon. the nixon white house is really the white house today in the sense of the furnishings. the -- what they did was they put history back. that truman had torn away. as a presidentiol complex, the white house served the purpose well as an office adjacent to the residence. it's very crowded. and the office staff of some
3,000 people spills over into the historical state, war and navy building. that booufl second empire building to the right of it or west of it. and across the street from there to the new executive office building, a large office -- modern office building. crowded office conditions for nearly everyone are tolerated because they have to be. being in the complex is paramount for one who works there. when one says, i work at the white house, it can mean a lot of places. a big fancy office or a broom closet. but sounds good. but the residents always remains the central focus, the defining place. here the president lives. here we imagine here every day. the closest point of human contact in a political system. the kennedy renovations did not create the white house symbol but seemed to put history back and they did repackage the president's house for a new age that through mass communications
makes citizens feel closer to it than can ever have been possible in any past time. every administration to follow has related in some manner to he symbol. security's demands to close pennsylvania avenue were rejected time and time again until president bill clinton yielded very reluctant in eloquent speech about necessity and common sense. he said he had to do it. like all necessary changes at the white house, this one truman's and all other ones, madison's, this one has been absorbed. this security business with the constant wish for everything to seem perfectly natural. indeed the visitor to washington can draw closer to the symbolic house than ever before. the auto-free avenue seems to compensate for limited visitor access to the white house, which it had known for two centuries almost. ever more sophisticated security keeps the symbolic house as the home of the presidents and thus
keeps the symbol alive. those who have preserved the symbolic house at various crisis periods over time have realized that the president must live here, must profit from the vibrant past and even the comforting image that the white house represents. james madison knew it, not quite in the same way as the rest. theodore roosevelt knew it well and harry truman who pared the symbol back probably knew more than anyone. the wall beneath each presidential episode is very thick in a sense. one president leaves, the next enters. for all practical purposes, a new house. at least new in the sense of his authority over it and how it will be used. how it will look. and his appearance -- apparent presence in it. yet the essential symbol never changes. the symbol of the presidency of stability, of american leadership and the peaceful transfer of the reins of immense power granted by ballots cast nationwide. thank you. [ applause ]
and now there is the torture of q&a. so any questions? i thought you were holding your hand up. well, if we have no questions -- oh, i'm sorry. i'm sorry. >> i was waiting to find out what you'd say about the clevelands. am i correct that they simply bought a house somewhere else and lived there? >> first administration, yeah. they bought a house out in -- near the cathedral called red top and they lived there when they were newlyweds. they had no children then and she had her 39 pets there and all that. she was just -- he was old enough to be her father. and then she came to the white house in '93 pregnant and her first child was born there and they did live there the second time. though they did buy another
house. but they also had other houses. they had a place in new york city. they had a place called gray gables. so, yes, that was the one that moved out. they came only for formal occasions. >> hi. there are two chandeliers, at least two chandeliers in the capitol that i've always said came from the teddy roosevelt white house in 1903. >> the grant white house. >> we've always said teddy roosevelt in 1903 but that's why i'm asking. >> they were removed and taken to the capitol. as i know the story there was an auction. you have to auction from the white house or destroy. and so in those days, so the chandeliers were coming up in some members of congress got furious about it. they were the ones from the east room. so they took them to the capitol and hung one in the ways and
means, i believe it was. and two there and then through president -- vice president johnson's influence, one was brought back for the kennedy administration. and then the johnsons returned it to the capitol. the capitol didn't give it away. it was in the rules committee room was the other one. >> my understanding, they are now at the -- the speaker rooms. ceremonial office an the east side and then the speakers office next door. i don't know, but -- >> i didn't know that. they were origin aally put in b general grant in the depression for his daughter's wedding. natalie's wedding to an englishman which took place in the east room. and then there are wonderful pictures of 1902 them being taken down and lined up by the parts on the floor in the room. and there was a question about keeping them, but mckim wouldn't
have heard of it. thank you. >> would you speak about the history of the oval office? >> yes. we have an author here that is going to write a history of the oval office for our white house history. the oval office was an invention of taft. and the apparent reason for it was taft was -- all presidents are smart. he was a very shrewd, smart man. and congressmen didn't like visiting the president in the west wing. they didn't like it at all. and the president was on the central access of the west wing and his office had a bow this way but it wasn't oval. so when president taft doubled the size of the west wing, he e devised having an oval office that would identify with the white house with the blue room. and so that's what he built there. and that was there until
president franklin roosevelt moved it to where it is now, adjacent to the garden and closer to the house which was good for him. and so the oval office it was a trick that was pulled off very well. there were many meetings there. the state of new mexico was entered in the -- signed for in that oval office, and it was taft made the change. and it's been the same since franklin d. roosevelt. there never was an idea to redecorate it all the time, but, of course, it's a background for television and that's always of interest. but mrs. kennedy had plans to redecorate the room for -- to match the house, but in his death, precluded that. and president johnson moved in with a very different -- two ticker tapes, typewriters, it was a work room under him. mostly, unless the president loves to work there, it's ceremonial now. you go to have your picture
taken with the president. elvis did. and you can, too. and so -- and he had a gun. but anyway, that's -- it's used ceremonially ma lly mainly now. but that's the brief history. it was designed for roosevelt by gugler. roosevelt likes to play architect and he had quite a design and mrs. roosevelt got the signal n got her friend eric gugler whom roosevelt called that silly man. he came in and did a design that roosevelt finally agreed to and that's the design the president wanted and there are parts of the other one in it. ma'am? >> who put the pool in? >> the pool was put in for president roosevelt, march of dimes. and it was in what was still, if you can believe, a laundry. it had always been that west wing that west wing that connects to the big building. that had been a laundry since the beginning and wine cellar
and so president roosevelt, there were contributions great and small, schoolchildren, and they built -- it was a tank. it wasn't more like an exercise tank. beautiful room. had an arched ceiling. it is now the press briefing room. president nixon changed it to that and president ford had a backyard pool built behind the west wing. and i must add that it is very interesting recently that the place was changed. the briefing room. and a group of us from the association went down and you can see traces of jefferson's wing there and you can see before the nixon improvements, you can see a portion of his -- lydia can tell you better than me. the wine cellar, semicircular, is still down there. the mike, oh, okay.
traces of jefferson's wine cellar and after the war of 1812, when the house was rebuilt, where the west wing big building is now was a stable. it is under the dining room windows, wasn't a very clear decision. and it was paved all in there, and you can -- the big arch is still there, just filled in where the horses were admitted. so it is -- the west wing is a working wing and it receives plenty of attention, but it does have a job to do. yes. >> i would like to know when was electricity put in the white house so that an elevator could be used by president roosevelt or if, for some reason, they didn't have a back up, were there ramps or anything of that sort to be used? >> the first elevator, which was a counterweight elevator, not electrical, was ordered by president garfield and put in
later by -- put into operation by arthur. it was near the elevator now, a little back hallway, you read about lincoln going down the back stairs, this was next to it. it was there. and mckimm put a fancy one in, you used to see at the smithsonian. i haven't noticed lately, but it is there. and now there is a modern elevator now in the house. which is -- i would say the next one was put in by mckimm, 1902. and he used timbers for the carriage for -- from old north church in boston. they were restoring that so he popped up a few timbers and made panelling for the elevator there in the white house. >> -- is still there, that jack kennedy -- >> it was in the little dining room, i'm sorry. i will. in the little dining room upstairs, the president's dining room, that paper was put up.
happily it is on linen because it is not popular with all presidents. mrs. gerald ford didn't like it and so she had it pulled down. miss johnson never liked it. it is still in the dining room. it is back in the dining room. white house has to change. excuse me, here is our author friends. >> one of the last time i was touring the white house, one of the things that is really fun effect about it is in the red room, above the joining doorway is the portrait of dolly madison. and we can see when we see on television the cross hall, but those interior are doors, when they're all open, doesn't that painting still look at the george washington painting? like, in the east room. don't -- can't you see visually from dolly's point of view above that door frame all the way into the east room? >> i don't know. >> i just wondered if it was still done that way.
i understood that hillary clinton had that picture put there so that dolly could still keep her eye on george washington. >> doesn't sound much like mrs. clinton, but lydia, is that true? lydia, from the office. lydia says it is true. i always thought it was hung too high for an important picture. one more -- >> there are some beautiful drawings of the benjamin, henry latrobe furniture that was burned up. why has the white house never reproduced that? and could you comment a little bit about the appropriations for the monroes to furnish the white house and how congress specified that they were ever practicable by american furniture. >> yes. okay. two questions. one, the world behind is not so happy with orange seats anymore. so they didn't want to rebuild
the latrobe stuff. it is hard. it is wicker seats and it is not -- would not be comfortable for what has to happen there. in those days you didn't have a lot of chairs, you had stools. and women would sit on the stools and men would stand behind them and the fire in front of them. and that doesn't really happen anymore. you would have a ride, probably, but anyway, as for the other one was -- about the monroe thing -- monroe naturally wanted french furniture. he was in the diplomatic service there and he and his wife acquired beautiful furniture that you can see at the museum in fredericksburg, one of our people. and he had that and so he ordered it from paris and happened to be a time that napoleon was defeated. napoleon's government had ordered quantities of courtly furniture for his generals and all, each general allowed 400,000, something like that to decorate a resident.
anyway, these -- apparently the cabinetmakers were pretty hungry. while they imply in the letter it is to monroe, describing it that it is made to order and new, it is clear it was already made. and its goal for which he specified he didn't want, and he got it, and so all of these trappings of the napoleonic period late napoleon period came to the white house. and dr. nell alexander, the records are all there. it was stunning and it was a chandelier which must be very much like what is in the blue room today, an old owen. and there is a document in 1840 where the visitor goes there and says, i stood beneath the chandelier that belonged to napoleon. so the legend of the french furniture stuck and some of it has been brought back. some has been reproduced. and it's comfortable. doll